Done in by a sea insect

Done in by a sea insect

Before we start, you should know that I have nothing against lobster even though it is a giant bug. Except for poached eggs I also don't like boiling my food. So the odds of catching me luxuriating in some exotic locale enjoying sea-bug meat with butter sauce are reasonably low. Not that I mind people who do that. Unless, of course, they're prominent members of a government that's trying to convince me that it understands how times are tough and is the best positioned to help me get through it and continue to thrive in an economy that's fair to everyone not just rich people and the heavily-subsidized who go to exotic locales to eat fancy.

Enter Lawrence MacAulay:

If you can’t see that this picture is a problem, you are part of the problem.

Lawrence MacAuley, currently serving as Canada's Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food, has been representing the good people of Prince Edward Island since 1988. That's known in politics as seven eternities. How could he not know that posing for a photo looking like a rich tourist was not going to land well in this economy and political climate? It boggles my mind.

I get that he's there, ostensibly, to conduct a trade mission and to promote Canadian exports including lobster. Whether or not trade missions are useful for those who aren't on the trip, I don't know. But they've been around a long time and if we accept that it is the job of governments to peddle Canadian products abroad then there's nothing wrong about this trip.

It's the photo. I'm no populist but for fuck's sake. Could he maybe refrain from looking so smug and entitled?

ArriveCAN just happened – is still happening, actually. It was only days ago that we learned that even the Auditor-General can't figure out exactly how much the $80K app cost. Her best guess is $60 million. It's only astronomically more than the estimate, with the bulk of the money "spent" on a two-person firm working out of a suburban bungalow.

I mean, at least Jean Chrétien had golf balls to show for AdScam. What did ArriveCAN ever do for you except give you headaches at the border?

Remember this? MacAulay sure does.

Someone whose opinion I respect objected to widespread criticism of MacAulay's lobster indulgence by saying, guys, if we're gonna talk optics, isn't it worse to be seen palling around with truckers demanding the overthrow of government?

Yes, and no. See, the thing is, Poilievre never tried to present himself as anything other than a toxic politician. Seeing him bringing some Timmies to occupiers is totally in character. And like it or not, many people in Canada these days want to vote for that. In my not-so-humble opinion, you'd get more miles to the rhetorical gallon by pointing out that the guy who's running on common-sense populism is the one charging $1,700 a plate to meet him and also living rent-free in a mansion courtesy of Joe Taxpayer.

But honestly? If I were advising the Liberals right now, I'd say get your shit together instead. Stop dithering on things that matter, take a fucking stand on moral issues and give people a reason to vote for you because they believe you'll help mitigate the effects of this affordability crisis that's touching most people.

The Liberals under Justin Trudeau are meant to be for the middle class and those working hard to join it. They have to look and sound like they mean it. Now they don't, and they're losing support from Millenials because of that. Even Millenials with good jobs can't buy a house and get ahead like their parents did before them. And they're not happy about it one bit. The social contract is showing signs of tearing. If younger voters think the system is rigged against them, they'll vote for the vandals promising to smash it, even at the cost of liberal social policies.

That is the danger we need to protect ourselves from. And we won't do that with more of the same.

brown and white concrete building under blue sky during daytime
Photo by Erik Mclean / Unsplash

Not only are the Trudeau Liberals losing on the politics, they're also terrible at governing.

For the last three years (if not more) they've been dithering on medical assistance in dying, online harms, the epidemic of gender-based violence and the worrisome rise in hate crimes. They promised and failed to deliver an acceptable update to the privacy regime (and also competition). We're not even going to talk about electoral reform. And that idiotic spat with Meta that's killing small journalism outlets. And the mind-bendingly awful backlogs at Immigration and in the appointment of federal judges that is causing real people to suffer real harms while they wait for their cases to be heard and decided on, their lives on hold.

On other subjects like bail reform the Liberals are downright atrocious. That bill they passed in a hurry, even though it goes against established jurisprudence on the presumption of innocence.

On anti-trans policies mushrooming in the dank corners of conservative legislatures the feds have done nothing except run their mouth. Why not, as Emmett Macfarlane suggested, tweak the Criminal Code to make it an offence to out a child to abusive parents – or at least float that possibility to protect the lives of trans and gender diverse children who are at risk of being harmed by their own parents?

It's like they're trying to push those of us who have been waiting for their promises to become reality away from them. "Vote for me I'm not Poilievre" is not good enough to win another election.

The only thing they've done something good about is the miscarriage of justice review commission, for which we can thank former justice minister David Lametti, who was kicked out of cabinet for no good reason last year. Ditto investing a very small sum on extremely judicious (and promising) projects aimed at revitalizing Indigenous legal traditions. Oh, and the last three appointments to the Supreme Court were excellent, also free from ridiculous politicking, so yay to that. Affordable child care is good, so was banning conversion therapy (sic).

Partisans will no doubt point to many – many! – more accomplishments and if there's something big I'm missing I'll be happy to add it. Anything foreign-affairs related doesn't count because people don't give a shit about that when they vote.

However you slice it, that's... not a lot to show for nine years in power.

"It's the economy, stupid!" James Carville coined that phrase during the 1992 presidential election, the one that saw Bill Clinton go to the White House despite his somewhat obvious character flaws. Put another way:

In 1991, President George H. W. Bush successfully and succinctly led a coalition of nations in the first Iraq war in the Persian Gulf. During his term the Berlin Wall had fallen and the Soviet Union had broken up. Bush enjoyed an approval rating higher than probably any president in modern times. A year later, in November of 1992, he was defeated in his bid for re-election. Despite an excellent track record for leadership on the world stage, Bush was defeated at the polls by a previously little known governor of a southern state that ranked 49th in quality of education, and who had a series of his marital infidelities aired publicly. How did this happen? 

Easy. People voted for the candidate who, they believed, had the best chance of turning the economy around.

There is no reason to think this principle doesn't apply to Canada in the 2020s. And Liberals have been ignoring this – and continue to ignore this, at their very real peril.

Yes, I know Poilievre doesn't have a plan. And if he had one it wouldn't hold up very long to scrutiny. I also know he's full of flaws – I point them out often. He is leading a movement of institutional vandals bent on bringing back traditional values to the public square, almost literally at any cost. If they win the next election we will have to fight the one after that over restoring equality rights for queer people, unmarried couples and children born out of wedlock – to say nothing of restoring abortion rights and sex ed in school. Clip this if you think I'm exaggerating. We'll talk later.

All this to say, the stakes are pretty high.

low angle view of building
Photo by Brandon Griggs / Unsplash

People care about the cost of everything going up and also the earth catching fire. But if they had to pick just one if would be the former, including at the expense of the latter.

On housing the feds are finally getting started with encouraging good zoning reforms in exchange for hard cash. The fact that they're making a mess of constitutional jurisdictions is something I could be prepared to gloss over and just might, if it does lead to enough good affordable housing quickly. But geez. Why did it take so long to get here? The housing crisis has been a thing for years. And the Liberals didn't start acting like they understood what the words meant until well after Pierre Poilievre started polling stratospherically high on this very issue.

Listen. I don't especially like or hate Justin Trudeau. But I absolutely don't want Trump Jr in charge and the Liberals are, at the moment, the only thing that can stop that. I was ready to give Trudeau a fair bit of time to let Poilievre stumble in his own toxic rhetoric and also come up with something voters could feel inspired by. But it appears Trudeau's entire strategy is to sit on his hands and bet Canadians will vote for anyone to avoid voting Poilievre.

That is not good enough. That lobster picture was the straw that broke my camel's back. Maybe you feel differently about it, and that's fine. But as far as I'm concerned, it's time to give this leadership a solid shake so it finds it political compass or change leadership.

My kids' future is at stake. Show me you understand.